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Accursed they were not here!

My post on the Manhatten Declaration has elicited the enthusaistic support of many, the ire of an angry few, and the well-deserved chastening of my much-beloved loyal opposition for whom I am more grateful than I can ever express.

Therefore, and nevertheless, this recent treatment deserves mention for its rhetorical brilliance and right-on-the-money beingness. Here’s just one snippet:

And at one level it’s impossible to view these pretentious peacocks, these Malvolios grimacing and strutting in their yellow stockings, without succumbing to the derisive laughter they deserve. Such self-inflation demands deflation. And anyway it can’t be helped. I mean, just listen to them:

We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.

The whole thing is like that — like a bad parody of the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. Except of course that Henry was outnumbered. Here instead we have a group of powerful elites, men at the center of political, cultural, academic and ecclesiastical privilege bemoaning their oppression at the hands of the homosexuals and religious minorities they claim run the world. They are overlords posing as underdogs. (It’s hard out there for a pope.)

And while that’s ridiculous, it’s not really funny. The claim of oppression is laughably bogus, but the blood on their hands is all too real. A parody of the St. Crispin’s Day speech has comic potential, but a parody of the St. Crispin’s Day speech as delivered by the pilot of the Enola Gay is too bitterly callous even for my bleak taste in comedy.

Mine too, hence my speech, as overly-incendiary and unwieldy as it may often be.

38 Comments

  1. Theophilus wrote:

    Posts like this make me think that the general criticism of the Manhattan Declaration centres not so much on the document itself, but on those who have signed it. Specifically, the signers’ prominent positions within a political movement that has aligned itself with an electorally formidable political party means that they are assumed to be grasping at political power through signing this statement. I’m more than willing to grant that this may well be a valid criticism of some, and perhaps many or even most, of the signers, one worth making and that I hope and pray might spur repentance and change in those people. But the signatures on the document also include figures like Ron Sider and various Orthodox church leaders who have not historically been lashed to the Republican Party, and have taken either uncommon positions in the culture wars or generally remained on the sidelines, respectively. Different people have signed this document for different reasons, and not all of those positions are covered by much of the criticism of the Statement I’ve run across – and the actual claims of what constitutes appropriate Christian behaviour made by the document seem to be the subject of very little commentary indeed.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 7:58 pm | Permalink
  2. Hill wrote:

    If that’s your real face, glad to finally see it. I basically agree with everything you’ve said, and I’m glad you beat me to the punch to avoid the rise in blood pressure that would have likely coincided with my attempt at a response.

    Halden, you do realize that we could all respond to every word you’ve ever written with “psh… as if that means something coming from the pilot of the Enola Gay.” It’s a brilliant and brutal slight, but I’m afraid it’s unfair in 99% of the situations in which one might be tempted to deploy it. The paragraph you’ve linked is a giant ad hominem, and at least in its form, patently offensive.

    The only point I’ve been trying to make is that an easy target doesn’t mean one should act like a dumbass in critiquing it. Imputing responsibility to the signers for the bombing of Hiroshima, which really is the secular political equivalent of what Halden tried to do theologically, is acting like a dumbass.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:

    I think this has been argued pretty thoroughly in the other thread, so I won’t attempt to take up the whole breadth of the matter again. However, I just want to say that no one is imputing responsibility for Hiroshima to anyone. The point is simply that that the rhetoric of the Manhattan Declaration is equally absurd as the pilot of the Enola Gay giving the St. Crispin’s Day speech. In other words, the Manhattan Declaration is simply an instance of political/theological conservatives pretending at being an oppressed minority while in fact they are merely pontificating from the seat of privilege. That is patently obvious. To take this commentary (let alone anything I’ve said) as the actual attribution of responsibility for Hiroshima to the signatories of the Manhatten Declaration is far more hysterical than any criticism anyone has made against the document. In fact I’d be hard pressed to think of a more inflated form of histrionics.

    However, I also agree, in the main with Theophilus here. And my own distaste for the document certainly is centered in its signatories and what it represents within current political movements and discourse, not immediately with the “personal ethics” it tends toward. If that matters.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Permalink
  4. Hill wrote:

    Then what blood is real and whose hands is it on and how is it all too real? You have to be kidding me to suggest that this is some kind of balanced and inoffensive rhetoric.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 8:52 pm | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    I’m sure its offensive towards those to whom it is directed nor do I claim that it is “ballanced.” All I’m saying is that it is the height of rhetorical and literary obtuseness to claim that this sort of polemic ought to be taken to mean that the signatories of the Manhatten Declaration are literally to be blamed for the dropping of the atomic bomb.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 8:54 pm | Permalink
  6. Hill wrote:

    Of course no one is literally attributing the bombing of Hiroshima to these people. The gravity of their offenses, whatever they may be, however, is being directly compared to it. Explain to me how this isn’t a problem. You probably couldn’t, because the blood on your hands is all too real.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 8:54 pm | Permalink
  7. Hill wrote:

    It’s worth noting that you have failed to address “its signatories and what it represents within current political movements and discourse” in even a cursory fashion, other than hurling epithets and accusing them of willful allegiance with the powers of darkness.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Permalink
  8. Halden wrote:

    Explain to me how it is a problem. You admit now that the metaphorical nature of the comparison is clear. The point is that the declaration pretends at being the valiant statement of a minority when it in fact comes from the a place of majority power. Sure the metaphor is harsh, but I find it hard to see how it is innaccurate.

    Would it be ok if we said that it was like the Russian Army giving the St. Crispin’s day speech before the charge of the Light Brigade? Because the metaphor would be the same.

    And yes I do have blood on my hands. And it is real. I certainly won’t obfuscate on that point.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Permalink
  9. Hill wrote:

    For it to be nonmetaphorical, a time machine would have to be invented so I obviously don’t think that. The analogy is batshit crazy. It still implies that their moral status is analogous to that of the people who perpetrated those bombings. Give me an example of a sin of one of the signatories and then explain how it is proportionate to nuclear bombing of civilians. Or if “the metaphor would be the same” use the Holocaust instead. Then explain how this precludes them from making any of the statements they have made, in good faith. The argument is objectively disingenuous. It’s not clear to me how anything in the document has anything to do with blood on hands or the Enola Gay. This is simply a move from “traditional Christian social ethics” to “Republican” to “war monger.” If it isn’t clear that the paragraph you’ve quoted is objectively an ad hominem and has no logical force whatsoever beyond guilt by association and name calling, I don’t know what to say.

    And if you have blood on your hands, how could you dare to criticize these people? (See how this works?)

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Permalink
  10. Halden wrote:

    The point has nothing to do with the number of people who died by the atomic bomb or anything like that. Its only point is that people from a position of overwhelming power and privilege are styling themselves as an oppressed minority. That is fucking absurd and should be called what it is.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 9:47 pm | Permalink
  11. Halden wrote:

    Hill, in light of what you’ve said previously about your disaproval of the document coupled with your stringent critiques for everything else negative that’s been said about it, I’m somewhat confused as to what your own critique of this “dumb” document is. If you’d like to do a guest post spelling this out, I’d love to post it. I mean this quite sincerely. You’ve expressed clearly that you think the document has major problems, but have gotten quite worked up over what has been said in response to it. If you have a response of your own — to the document itself — that avoids my “batshit crazy” excesses, I would certainly like to publish it as guest post. So, if you’re interested email me about it. Seriously.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 9:52 pm | Permalink
  12. Hill wrote:

    Fine. That’s not what you have done and it’s not what the above quote above is doing, unless you think that doing something absurd warrants unleashing the rhetorical nuclear option with no concern for proportionality or charity. At the end of the day, both you and the author quoted have engaged in a judgment and condemnation that constitutes a performative contradiction of any supposedly Christian position that might have motivated them. And I truly say that as the least of these, and a miserable sinner, guilty of wrath, among other things.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 10:01 pm | Permalink
  13. Would you have signed it?

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 5:32 am | Permalink
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    When the document says, “We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make” (my emphasis) does anyone know what this means, at least in legal channels? Is it possible that these signatories recognize how dangerous this suggestion is, given what is taking place in Uganda? Are they really quite that careless? Or is this in fact intentional, and meant to be in tandem with the proposed anti-homosexuality legislation in the East African country?

    And then again, when they misapply the analogy (since clearly “Christ : church :: man : wife” (in their own understanding of what constitutes “marriage”), and not “Christ : church :: evangelicals/Orthodox/Catholic conservatives : the preservation of “marriage” as between a man and a woman), saying: “And so just as Christ was willing, out of love, to give Himself up for the church in a complete sacrifice, we are willing, lovingly, to make whatever sacrifices are required of us for the sake of the inestimable treasure that is marriage,” what are we to make of “whatever sacrifices are required of us” here — again, especially in relation to Uganda? Sacrificing the very dignity they were just saying applies even to homosexual couples as human beings? Really? Whatever sacrifices? How about sacrificing a homosexual Ugandan couple’s lives because they slept together while having AIDS? Or the sacrifice of requiring up to 3 years jail time if you’re a family member of that couple and don’t rat them out within 24 hours? Whatever sacrifices?

    It’s a true shame that these folks so boldly (and I would suggest proudly) signed their names to this document and can’t even look at a newspaper to see the damage such views are having on the very people they say they are really just “loving” and with no animus or prejudice.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 9:49 am | Permalink
  15. Tyler Wittman wrote:

    Manifestos are a dime a dozen. I say forget the manifestos. If it’s substantive, we’ll be talking about it 15 years from now. I don’t see the point in wasting breathe over it now (or then). People are spending more time bitching about it than they are doing something about the problems it addresses.

    I think the quoted rhetoric is a fine piece of mockery, the signatories certainly have been “served” in that there blog – but in all honesty, it’s not substantive. Ad hominem arguments have never carried the day.

    Here’s my real beef: all of this talk sidesteps the heart of the disagreement. What’s really at stake are two opinions over the place of religion in the public square (and legislation over such things as gay marriage, in particular). So there’s disagreement. Fine, get to debating that. But let’s dispense with the lofty, self-importance ironically represented in the kind of banter quoted above, regardless of how eloquent it is.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 11:44 am | Permalink
  16. Andrew wrote:

    I didn’t want to continue the comment stream’s strangulation by replying to Hill (though this is a reply/reaction to Hill’s beef with Halden’s rhetoric) as I can’t help but reading in a higher and higher voice as the paragraphs get skinnier and I am already in danger of singing “it’s hard out there for a pope” in a chipmunk voice. I did not read the comment stream from the earlier post so tell me if this has been covered already but it seems to me that Hill has taken the analogy to an insane end. Halden can correct me if I am wrong but I don’t necessarily think he is meaning to bring Hiroshima into this at all. It is an analogy that points out a manipulative use of language that is absurd because of the parties’ power status. He is not saying that the religious elite are wrong for their manifesto because they caused the bombing of Hiroshima, he is saying that the flowery language and absurdist stance are as ridiculous as if the captain who dropped the atomic bomb quoted Henry V to mark the occasion. It is a good metaphor because both of them have power and are thus dangerous and it is therefore ridiculous for them to pose as the underdog.

    Perhaps a better comparison would have been stock brokers dropping Shakespeare on reporters on their way to beg for bailouts. . . then again, people are pretty pissed about that one too.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
  17. erin wrote:

    Man I can’t figure out how to trackback link, Halden, but I plagiarize you constantly. I like the colorful comparison as it highlights how oblivious the document seems within the broader context.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 3:48 pm | Permalink
  18. Hill wrote:

    I seriously tried to read it in the way you are suggesting, but the simple fact is, he is claiming that the signatories have “real blood” on their hands (in a way that presumably he does not). He’s obviously imputing genocidal guilt to these people, if not specifically for the bombing of Hiroshima, which of course would be an absurd thing to suggest. My point is that the analogy can’t be simply functioning as you suggest, otherwise, how would the blood on their hands be relevant. The analogy does not refer simply to a power gap. It refers to a group of people claiming to be persecuted when they are in fact the persecutors, and in the case of the analogous term to the signatories, materially responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. I don’t see how anyone could fail to find this offensive in a neutral context. The genocidal dimension of the analogy is completely unnecessary if it’s simply trying to make the point you are making. Why include it?

    I still maintain that “the signatories” are serving as some sort of proxy for the Republican party, when in reality, most of the commenters in all of this couldn’t tell you 5 of their names without checking the document first. I would feel a lot more comfortable with vague insinuations of genocide towards the political right generally, but we’re talking about 148 people here, likely with a range of different views on government sanctioned violence, most of which are only partially public, if public at all.

    Finally, I am all for acknowledging the “blood on our hands” as privileged members of society (if you have regular internet access and an education, that probably means you), but it’s obviously intended as a conversation stopper in the quote above, and so one privileged member using it in critique of another is disingenuous.

    This guy is saying “you have blood on your hands, so shut the fuck up,” a claim that suffers from the precisely the same absurdity he is trying to point out in the Declaration itself. It’s also unclear to me what the Pope has to do with any of this.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Permalink
  19. Andrew wrote:

    First of all, I have a problem with the document itself. The signatories are not proxies, they are idiots some of whom i dislike for other reasons as well as this manifesto.

    I’ll have to read back through it all more carefully but I could swear that you first brought up this notion of “blood on our hands” not Halden, and if that is correct you are objecting to an issue you created.

    Finally, the Pope comment is pop cultural reference to Hip Hop song that states that it is “hard out there for a Pimp”.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
  20. roger flyer wrote:

    Damn! cut the skinny paragraphs (Halden?) so we can hear the speakers!

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink
  21. Andrew wrote:

    I have always felt that the song was already plenty odd as it goes without saying that in reality it must be much harder out there for a Ho.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Permalink
  22. Hill wrote:

    For the sake of clarity, “but the blood on their hands is all too real” comes from the portion Halden excerpted above.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 6:17 pm | Permalink
  23. Marvin wrote:

    That dude is STILL blogging his way through the Left Behind series. Wow. Takes me all the way back to 2003 and trying to embed the Sesame Street version of the Terror Alert Level into Blogger’s HTML without giving your blog the measles. Man, those were the days!

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Permalink
  24. Tyler suggests that the MD may just fade away and have little impact, one can hope. But do not mis-underestimate the efficacy of even much more trite but effective slogans like “drill here drill now,” or “fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here,” etc. I often work on a job with fund. Christian sheet-rockers and they were discussing it at breaktime already. There’s a bumble-bee like network among a lot of these folks and the MD has a conciseness and sort of intellectual aroma about it that is effective and appealing among us ‘GED equivalency,’ working-class schmucks. Me and the Jehova’s Witness guy have learned to just keep our mouth’s shut during these discussion. I am already under suspicion for the rosary collection hanging from my rear view mirror, and the JW got a verbal beat down a while back on the existence of ‘Hell’ and has stopped leaving “Awakes!” in the Port-a-Potty ever since. I’m kinda hoping they just hurry up and get raptured already so I can change the freaking radio station. obliged.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 10:13 pm | Permalink
  25. james wrote:

    Hill, good to see you are babysitting the kids. This blog’s utterly sincere, so-post-evangelical, I’m NOT a Republican, twenty-somethingness is so cute I can only handle it in small, occasional doses. Sorry I can’t be of more help against these goddamn hippies trying to radicalize our coffeeshops. Carry on.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 11:54 pm | Permalink
  26. dan wrote:

    I’m still waiting for the answer to APS’s question…

    Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 8:36 am | Permalink
  27. The skinny paragraphs go away if you click on the title of the post (so it has its own page) instead of reading the comments on the main page (with all the other posts).

    Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 9:57 am | Permalink
  28. roger flyer wrote:

    Thanks Scott.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink
  29. Grampa, the nurse said you aren’t supposed to go off the oxygen. She warned us you’d get senile like this.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 9:42 pm | Permalink
  30. james wrote:

    Yes but at least I can change my own diaper.

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink
  31. Auggie Webster wrote:

    I’m going to have to cast my lot with Halden on this one. Perhaps it is that Hill doesn’t like polemical speech. But certainly Hill realizes that is one of the five marks of this blog.(I’ve forgotten the other four, but apparently Hill believes they are assholes, assholes, assholes, and assholes) There is a long tradition of Christian polemicists going back to Jesus. Jesus came “to cast fire on the earth” should his followers be different. Look what he says about the establishment Pharisees in Matt 23:

    15Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. 24Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. 27Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 29Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 33Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? 34Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.38Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

    For example, here’s a polemical syllogism:

    A: I love Jesus.
    B: Jesus was a polemicist
    C: Therefore, I love polemicists
    D: Hill doesn’t love polemicists
    E: Therefore, Hill doesn’t love Jesus

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  32. Hill wrote:

    This isn’t a slight to Halden at all, but most of the people in the blogosphere, including him and myself, look a lot more like the Scribes and the Pharisees in this passage. I know I’m much more comfortable identifying with them. This verse might be more appropriate:

    1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
    2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
    3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
    4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
    5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 1:02 pm | Permalink
  33. Hill wrote:

    In other words, the “What would Jesus do?” hermeneutic has failed you here.

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Permalink
  34. Auggie Webster wrote:

    Apparently WWJD means he would in fact judge and say some pretty nasty things about the cultural and religious powers and principalities of his day. Halden believes that, by and large, these are today represented by the signers of the Declaration.

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
  35. Based on the smell coming from your room, no you can’t. And this is something no one can abide — even in small, occasional doses.

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 1:51 pm | Permalink
  36. Hill wrote:

    Right. My point is that asking “what would Jesus do” is pretty stupid. Jesus can judge because… he’s… you know… sinless and the son of God. The point being that we are not, a status that specifically renders us incapable of judgment or the “casting of stones,” as it were.

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  37. Auggie Webster wrote:

    Careful here Hill. The allowance “well, Jesus was________ or Jesus did ________, but he was the Son of God after all” explains the less than Christ-like behaviour (yeah, I added a “u” because I’m classy) of much of Christendom as well that of the signers of the Declaration. It’s just crazy to use Jesus ontology to absolve our lack of Jesus praxis. This kind of theological schizophrenia explains the existence of abortion doctor assassins and rabid pro-lifers who would like to bomb the Middle East into the Stone Age and rename it “Texas II”. Jesus died for the Gospel. Because of his “special status” or because he is the Pattern? The apostles and martyrs believed the latter.

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  38. Hill wrote:

    I’m in total agreement. I think it goes the other way just as much, though, as in: “Jesus kicked the money-changers’ asses, so I was just following his example when I beat up the ref at my kid’s soccer game.” It only gets uglier when we start talking about waging war as being fit for comparison to this biblical tableau.

    So I’m not saying we shouldn’t ask hard questions in these situations, just that an appeal to certain instances of Christ’s behavior frequently serves only as a kind of theological Rorschach test. In this circumstance, I think Christ’s direct teaching regarding our manner of engagement with our mistaken brethren is a little clearer. My point all along is that the actions of the signatories, however misguided they may be, nonetheless come from the church, according to some rendering of the concept, and immediate excommunication isn’t really the appropriate response.

    Friday, December 4, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

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